Locations & Times

Who's Afraid of Revelation?

by John Mehl on September 11, 2023

It’s been well over a year since I first decided to really immerse myself in the Book of Revelation.

When I first engaged in the book, it was within the bigger picture plan of facilitating a study on Revelation for our Women’s Ministry at Timberline Windsor (TW). I figured step one would be to read through the book on a personal level before I would take more of an academic or teaching approach to it. Of course, it’s not like I had never read through it before, but it had certainly been a while – and for all the “usual reasons.”

Why do people generally avoid the Book of Revelation? What are the “usual reasons?” Who’s afraid of the big, bad Book of Revelation?

Maybe people avoid Revelation because it can be difficult to understand. Or maybe we’re afraid of getting caught up in the weeds of eschatology (the study of end times). Or maybe we’re just not sure how Revelation can really apply to our daily lives. I’m sure there are many other “usual reasons,” but these are honestly a few of the reasons I personally hadn’t engaged in Revelation in quite a while.

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In my first read-through — ahead of engaging the book with more of a teaching prep approach — I found myself immersed… and not in a bad way at all! I found myself actually leaning into the apocalyptic nature of the flow of the book, the richness of the images, the encouragements, and even the warnings. To state it simply, I found that if I engaged with Revelation on its terms, I didn’t really have to get stuck in the weeds.

Fast forward to today: I have since completed two different iterations of teaching through Revelation, and I am beginning to prepare to teach it for an 8-week series for Wednesday Night Community (beginning Sept. 27). 

So why Revelation? Why is this book so impactful for me and for others who have journeyed through the study along with me?

I can tell you right now it has nothing to do with me personally. What I mean by that is that it is not like this study is just such a great development of my work. I enjoy the study, I’m actually pretty proud of the study, but it is not really a concoction of my own doing.

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Pastor Brent and I sat down to discuss the idea of Revelation and Wednesday Night Community, and I told him then that it kind of seemed to me like Revelation was like a beautiful coral reef and I am interested in being like a scuba instructor. I certainly didn’t create the reef, but I do know at least something about how to safely explore it. And because of the experiences of my own explorations, I find it to be very rewarding to invite others to explore it with me. With image-rich thinking like this, by the way, you can probably tell I have been seeing things through “Revelation eyes.”

Even up to this very morning, as I write this reflection on Revelation — and invite you to join me in this exploration, either through Wednesday Night Community or online — I HAVE been trying to see things through “Revelation eyes.” I want to see temptations to sin, not merely like minor imperfections, but as delusional, cheap knock-offs of the good intentions that God has for his people. I want to see Jesus’s calls to repent as critical, loving words from a Groom to his beloved Bride (the Church). And I want to keep seeing things like this in new ways day by day!

Make no mistake, exploring the Reef of Revelation is not simple. I don’t intend to suggest that Revelation is basic or easy to understand. People can spend years — even lifetimes — engaging with this vast and deep (very deep) content. But I absolutely do believe that it is both a more engageable and necessary book for each and every Christian than many of us have assumed. The study that I have taken people through is much more of an overview or a survey than it is a comprehensive handling. But that is the kind of work that I hope a general study of Revelation can unlock for people. A foundation of understanding the nature and main points of Revelation can allow divers to return to the Reef of Revelation themselves and explore all kinds of intricacies!

And, at the very least, even if divers do not intend to take deeper dives, every person who ventures into Revelation with an open and authentic heart is blessed. It’s written at the bookends of John’s Great Reveal: “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (1:3) and “Behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book” (22:7).

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Would you consider diving in with us this fall, either through Wednesday Night Community and/or through videos on our website — either for this current semester or the previous Revelation study I've worked through with Timberline Windsor? You don’t need to preface it with doctorate certifications or eschatological equipment. Just an open mind, an open heart, and a willingness to journey deeper in your relationship with Jesus alongside other divers.

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